Route: spelling and pronunciation

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Sat Jun 29 05:24:47 UTC 2002

One of the problems in trying to use English orthographic re-spellings to
indicate pronunciation is that regional pronunciations vary considerably,
and of course there is considerable difference cross-linguistically in the
pronunciation values attached to particular letters or combinations. This
is why the International Phonetic Association was formed in the 19th c.,
and why linguists use more-or-less consistent transcriptions to represent
pronunciations. Americans for over 150 years have been shielded by
dictionary-makers from confronting and learning a consistent phonemic
representation, but British dictionaries have for some time utilized a
version of the IPA system, and presumably British school-children learn
this system, and know how to interpret it in using a dictionary. When I
taught in Taiwan 30 years ago, I found that even 8th graders who were
studying English as a foreign language, and struggling with the very
concept of an alphabetic system for writing the language, were also
expected to learn a "broad" IPA phonemic transcription at the same time.
American innocence in this area, even after over 50 years of efforts by
linguists, remains regrettable, and a reflection on our educational

        Representing the different pronunciations of <route> as "root" and
"rowt" runs afoul of the problem that the word <root> can be pronounced to
rhyme with <foot> or <boot>, and the respelling "rowt" can be interpreted
as reflecting the vowel of <rote> or of <rout>. A phonemic transcription
of /ruwt/ (or /ru:t/, as some might prefer) vs /rawt/ (or again, some
might aesthetically prefer /raUt/) has the value of being unambiguous and
consistent (the variant transcriptions are equally clear and consistent).


More information about the Ads-l mailing list